Networking for musicians: Why it’s vital and how to network like a pro

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Illustration: Jeremy Leung

The people you know can be a powerful part of ‘making it’ in the music industry.

This was true when every musician was looking to get signed with a major label, but it’s also still true in the age of independent artists—perhaps even more so. Navigating the music industry can be a long, winding, and bumpy road, but you can make it much easier and much more enjoyable if you get some help along the way. In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of networking for musicians and why it’s something that you may want to consider engaging in regularly.

If the idea of networking sounds daunting or intimidating, it doesn’t have to be! We’ll also share 20 tips that will help you master the art of making connections and feel more comfortable about networking on a regular basis.

Feel free to use the table of contents below to easily jump from section to section.

What you’ll learn:

Let’s dive in!

Why networking is important for musicians

If you’re pursuing a career in music, you have to come to terms with the fact that you may not be able to do it alone. No matter how talented, skilled, and knowledgeable you are, there are simply not enough hours in a day for you to master and do it all effectively. Music is a collaborative journey, and at one point or another, you’ll need to recruit some help.

You might need help on the music side of things—hiring producers, session musicians, engineers, songwriters, and singers. You might also need help on the business side—finding a manager, publisher, marketing expert, PR firm, etc. Networking can help you find these people and recruit them to your team.

Even if you’re not looking to build a team, networking can be a great way to engage with people who are in a similar position as you, hear their advice, and learn from their successes or mistakes.

Lastly, networking can open new doors for you and help take your career to the next level. The more people know about you, the more opportunities you’ll find to work with industry professionals and promote your music to new audiences.

Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at 20 tips to help you network like a pro. We’ll offer five tips on networking online, eight tips for networking at events, and seven general tips that tie everything together.

Tips for networking online

Networking online is perhaps the most accessible and convenient way to make new connections in the music industry and open doors for yourself. If you have access to the internet, there’s no excuse not to network on social media, via email, and in forums. Here are a few tips:

1. Make friends

Making friends on social media doesn’t have to feel like networking. Simply follow musicians who live in your area, have a similar music style, or are at the same career stage as you. Engage with their content, chat with them in the DMs, and genuinely support their work.

You never know how one of these online friendships may pay off—when you’re looking for help, advice, or an introduction to someone you’d like to work with, you’ll have an entire community to turn to.

2. Build relationships

Is there someone you’d like to reach out to who doesn’t even know you exist? It’s perfectly fine to send them a DM, cold email, or message on LinkedIn, as long as you stay respectful and keep their interests in mind. Whatever you do, don’t start the conversation by immediately promoting your music. Instead, take the time to establish a relationship and think about how working together could be beneficial for both of you.

This should go without saying, but make sure this new relationship you’re trying to build is a realistic one. In other words, don’t try to message Beyoncé to see if she would share your first song. If you’re looking for a collaborator or someone to join your business team, make sure this person works with artists who are in a similar place in their career as you.

3. Join groups

There are plenty of Facebook groups, Reddit threads, and forums where you can meet other musicians and potential new connections. There are even social networks catered specifically to musicians (consider looking into platforms like Drooble, ReverbNation, and Vampr).

4. Offer help

Networking is a two-way street. Rather than constantly seeking out people who might be able to help you advance in your career, think about how you can help other musicians. What advice can you share? What unique skills can you offer? Focus on being helpful to others and they’ll be much more likely to return the favor when you need it.

5. Don’t spam

Sending a message online takes a few seconds, but that doesn’t mean that you should reach out to as many people as you can. Send a message only to those with whom you truly want to build a lasting, mutually beneficial relationship.

More importantly, if people don’t respond or don’t seem to be interested in continuing the conversation, don’t bombard them with more messages in an attempt to change their mind. Be respectful of people’s time and remember that no one owes you anything.

Tips for networking at events

The most effective kind of networking happens face-to-face at conferences, workshops, and other industry events. Networking in-person can seem intimidating, but if you just remember that everyone is there for the same reason, you’ll feel more comfortable approaching other attendees and making real, lasting connections. Try to talk to as many people as you can and keep the following tips in mind:

1. Research attendees

Before you go to the event, see if the organizer has shared who will be in attendance. If they have, you should be able to do a bit of research and identify exactly who you wish to talk to when you get there. This will save you time and help you get the most out of the event.

2. Prepare an elevator pitch

People will often start the conversation with “What do you do?” or “What brings you here?” Instead of wasting time trying to come up with an adequate answer on the spot, come prepared with a 30-second “about me” statement. It should include your genre, past achievements, what you’re currently working on, and what you’re hoping to accomplish in the near future.

If you have a skillset that other people might be looking for (for example, producing, mixing and mastering, etc), be sure to mention it as well.

3. Know what you’re looking for

Before you head out to the event, make a list of your ideal outcomes. For example, maybe you hope to find an agent or producer to collaborate with. Having a set of goals in mind will help you stay more attuned to these topics during a conversation, or maybe even steer the conversation in that direction when appropriate.

4. Treat every conversation as a budding friendship

Try to treat networking as a way to make new friends, rather than a way to open doors for yourself. Be nice, approachable, and kind. Treat everyone you talk to like you would treat a new friend. You never know where opportunities might come from in the future, so it doesn’t hurt to have as many friendly faces as possible in your corner.

5. Ask questions

A foolproof way to make a connection with someone is to express interest in them. With every conversation, try to listen more than you talk. Ask questions and see what you can learn from the other person. Of course, do talk about yourself if they ask, but don’t make the conversation all about you.

6. Bring business cards

Yes, business cards are still a reliable way to give and receive contact information. Bring them to every event and hand them out at the end of every conversation. Be sure to also ask for business cards from people you want to stay in touch with.

7. Follow new connections on social media

Another way to make sure you stay in touch with your new connections is to follow them on social media. The best way to do this is to politely ask if you can give them a follow. Chances are, they’d be happy to give you their handle and will probably follow you back, too.

8. Follow up

Whether you got someone’s business card or followed them on social media, be sure to send them a follow-up message after the event. This can just be a quick hello or a continuation of a conversation you had in-person. Either way, it will solidify your connection and help them remember you in the long term.

How to network in your day-to-day life

Networking can happen online or in-person, but it can also happen more casually, without you really trying. Here are a few things you can do in your day-to-day life to set yourself up for new connections:

1. Get your name out there

If the music business is all about who you know, then it pays to know as many people as possible. Say yes to any opportunities that will help get your name out there, even to just a handful of people. You never know—someone might know someone who could prove to be a valuable connection for you.

2. Be an active member of your community

In the same vein, you can meet new people and get your name out there by being an active member of your community. Collaborate with local artists, attend open mics, and go to songwriting workshops. Go to small shows and make friends with everyone involved—the band, volunteers, the sound guy, and even the audience members.

3. Take care of your online presence

If someone hears about you from someone else, they’ll likely search your name on Google to try and get a bit more information. Make sure your artist website and social media are up to date and effectively communicate who you are and what you do.

4. Make your contact information easily available

New connections can come from the most unexpected places, but only if the person is able to contact you. To help make this happen, make sure your contact information is available and easy to find.

5. Introduce people you know to each other

Know two people who could both benefit from working together? Why not introduce them to each other? In the future, they will more than likely repay the favor and facilitate a new introduction for you.

6. Keep a list of contacts

Some of your new connections will immediately turn into an active relationship, but others may stay dormant for some time—maybe you’re both happy you met, but you won’t need each other’s help for a few months. To make sure you never forget about anyone you’ve met, add their information to a list as soon as you get home. Include their name, how you met, what they do, and any other important details.

If you can, sort this list into categories. For example, you can have a section for session musicians, producers, songwriters, publishers, etc. This way, the next time you need a drummer, for example, you’ll know exactly where to look.

7. Stay in touch

If you meet someone but wait until you need something from them to reach out again, you could be waiting a few years. At this point, not only will reaching out seem awkward, but they likely won’t even respond. To keep this from happening, be sure to regularly stay in touch with the people on your list. Engage with them on social media or send a quick message every once in a while just to say hello and check in.

Doing this will also help keep you at the front of their mind. The next time they or someone they know is looking for a collaborator, they might just think of you!

Networking for musicians: Conclusion

Whether you want to network online, at events, or more casually, the best thing you can do is practice. The more you engage in networking, the more comfortable and confident you’ll feel; it will get easier, and you will get better at it.

Keep the above tips in mind and start networking as soon as you can. You’ll be amazed at what it can do for your music career!


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SAYANA

SAYANA is a contemporary R&B singer-songwriter based in Toronto, Canada. She’s currently releasing a new song every month for a year. Check out her latest release, “Favourite Day” anywhere where you listen to music.